Fall precedes summer as my favorite beer season. While I could drink kolsches — like Harpoon Summer Beer — all day long, the weight and flavor of an Oktoberfest märzen my favorite. And it seems everyone has an entry into this race.
And not all of them are good.
So, in the interests of research and as a public service to you, dear reader, I’m working my way through the fall beers available at my local (Upstate NY) grocers and beer purveyors.
(Note: Spaten Oktoberfest is usually in a class by itself and transcends mere lists. Only problem is that I cannot find it this year.)
- Left Hand Brewing Company Oktoberfest lager (right). Malty start with a hoppy finish. Smooth. Spicy. The type of beer you could drink all night. Almost perfect. (6.6% ABV)
- Great Lakes Oktoberfest lager. They dominate fall and winter. I can’t wait for the Christmas Ale. (6.5% ABV)
- Breckenridge Brewery Autumn Ale. A brilliant, smooth ale with a rich malty flavor. (6.7% ABV)
- Brewery Ommegang Scythe & Sickle ale. Just a damn good ale. Toasty, malty, hoppy and (most importantly) well balanced. (5.5% ABV)
- Southern Tier Brewing Company Harvest Ale. STBC continues its run as Chautauqua County’s only noteworthy export. Just a solidly consistent beer in terms of flavor, color, and hops. (6.7% ABV)
- Great Lakes Nosferatu imperial red ale. A 70 IBU might scare you off, but it’s no worse than an IPA. It has big flavor and attitude. It lets you know that it’s in charge and keeps you going back for more in that “Thank you, sir, may I have another?” way. (6.4% ABV)
- Southern Tier Brewing Company 2XRye. I like ryes, particularly Sierra Nevada‘s and Great South Bay‘s rye beers. I would actually rather drink this than straight IPAs. This is notable. (8.1% ABV)
- Sierra Nevada Tumbler ale. Brown ale with a nice smoky, toasty flavor. Good malt body. Enjoyable. Better than the 2012 offering. (5.5% ABV)
- Samuel Adams Octoberfest lager. Familiar. Balanced. The 2012 version was better. (6.7% ABV)
- Abita Pecan Harvest ale. Somewhere between a pale and brown ale. Subtle nutty flavor found in the aftertaste. I was hoping for something slightly more pronounced. (5.1% ABV)
- Leinenkugel Hoppin’ Helles lager. A nice, light malty lager with a little zest of citrus on the backend. I didn’t think I would enjoy it. I was wrong. Again. Very surprised that something advertising a blend of five hops has only a 27 IBU. (5.5% ABV)
- Goose Island Harvest Ale. So much better than their Oktoberfest. Just a smooth, enjoyable pub ale with a nice malty finish. (5.6% ABV)
- Narragansett Fest lager. Very good. Nice malty flavor. (5.5% ABV)
- Peak Brewing Organic Fall Summit Ale. Ordinary. Nothing special. (5.7% ABV)
- Sierra Nevada Flipside Red IPA. Boring. Ordinary. It’s a red IPA. Yawn. (6.2% ABV)
- Otter Creek Oktoberfest lager. Tasteless lager with with a slight citrusy finish. Unimpressive. (4.8% ABV, according to Untappd)
- Harpoon Grateful Harvest Ale. Bitter, but not because of cranberry or hops. The former was virtually nonexistent. Just not enjoyable by any stretch of the imagination.
- Harpoon Octoberfest lager. Boring. Lifeless. The perfect body but nothing going on. It reminds me of a few girls that I knew in college. (5.3% ABV)
- Goose Island Oktoberfest lager. Tasted like a diluted bock. Very disappointing considering the price and reputation. (Who cares)
- JosephsBrau Oktoberfest lager. Garbage. Undrinkable. The malty flavor was like an afterthought. Tasted like cheap beer. Rumor is that this private-label Trader Joe’s offering is brewed by Gordon Biersch, which is even more disappointing. (ABV unpublished)
Never found: Founders Harvest, Sixpoint Autumnation, Magic Hat Seance.